The day after 17 people were killed in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Ryan Servaites, just a freshman at the time, knew he had to do something about gun violence as well as the systems governing his life.
Initially he got involved with the March for Our Lives group as it emerged just as a way to cope with the tragedy, but when he went to Washington for the actual march, he said, he felt the energy of the massive crowd and recognized that as the meaning of power and activism.
“So many young people and so many families who were feeling so much pain, so much grief—that showed me that politics and activism aren't these removed things,” says Ryan, now a senior at the Parkland, Florida, high school.
He’s been active in the youth-led March for Our Lives against gun violence ever since then, joining the Road to Change tour that summer of 2018 and more recently serving on the Youth Congress for March for Our Lives, where he’s working to sustain the momentum and partner with local activists and communities on gun-violence prevention efforts.
On the multistate tour, they’ve spoken with young people, organizers and people from the community about the importance of voting, about policy, and about their experiences. “We wanted to try to activate as many young people as possible. And we wanted to try to get as many young people out there to vote as possible,” he says.
Ryan isn’t old enough to vote in next week’s election, but he’s encouraging everyone he knows who is old enough to go out and vote.
“I don't think we are going to stop fighting until we are sure that we have done all we possibly can do to try to help realize a future where we can feel safe, where you're not afraid that you're sending your kid off to school for the last time,” he says. “We want to create a society where young people feel valued, where they feel like their vote matters, like their voice matters, where they feel that they can actually go out there and change the world.”